When ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM’s main event combatants, ONE Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee and challenger Jenny Huang, collide at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand, they will not only be coming from opposite ends of the cage. Their respective paths to headliner status is also at odds.
For the title holder, MMA is truly a family affair. Lee’s day starts when she rises at five in the morning. From there, her family hits the gym — as a unit — for a one-hour training session.
“I could not do this all by myself,” the 20-year-old says. “It takes a whole army to build a champion.”
The construction has paid off. Lee owns a perfect 6-0 record with five of those victories coming by way of submission. Now, her success carries on the family name in combat sports.
Her father, Ken, who holds multiple black belts, coaches at United MMA in Waipahu, Hawaii. Jewelz, her mother, is also an instructor and carries black belts in Hapdosool, Total Defense System, and Taekwondo. And then there is Christian, a surefire featherweight prospect who owns a 5-1 record.
Although her fame continues to grow larger and larger by the day, the undefeated champ insists she is still the same woman she was before setting foot in a cage. “I still work hard. I still keep my family close.”
ONE’s CEO Victor Cui echoes that sentiment.
“She is one of the most humble people you will ever meet,” he states. “None of this is going to her head. Why? She’s got a great family around her. They keep her grounded.”
For Huang, her road to the top sits in stark opposition. While the Lee family is with the champ at every turn, the 26-year-old has had to go it alone.
“My family is very traditional,” she explains. “They wanted me to be a policewoman. A firefighter. Maybe a coach. Anything except a professional fighter. There is a lot of hardship in my journey.”
Having to go it alone has not stalled the judo black belt’s progress. Like Lee, Huang is also unbeaten, holding a spotless 5-0 record with her last three victories coming by way of submission.
“This is going to be an opportunity for Jenny to show that she’s on the right path,” Cui says. “Win or lose, her family is going to be proud of her.”
Huang managed to turn a potential negative into fuel for her blossoming career. She believes not having family support gives her a competitive advantage when the cage door closes.
“I feel that I am more motivated than other fighters because I do not have the support from my family. This is a good opportunity to show people my determination in being an MMA fighter,” she said resolutely.
Though Lee and Huang have taken different routes to this point, they are united by one thing: showing the world, and young girls all over Asia, that women in MMA are just as good as their male counterparts, and that one should always chase their dreams.
In their short careers, both fighters are already firmly notched in the history books. Huang is Chinese Taipei’s first female professional fighter. And Lee, at the age of 20, holds the distinction of being the sport’s youngest world champion ever.
“Angela is empowering Asian women and letting them know they can be young, beautiful and the best in the world at what they do,” Cui says.
With MMA growing in popularity in Asia, this high stakes headlining bout has more than just gold on the line. In addition to atomweight division supremacy, the winner walks out with their undefeated record intact, and their hand raised in front of millions of viewers who are still being introduced to women’s MMA in Asia.
That is something both ladies keep at the forefront of their minds in their day-to-day activities.
“When I see a class that has more girls than boys, it blows my mind,” Lee admits.
When Huang comes across girls interested in fighting, she takes a page from her fairy tale journey to the number one contender slot to serve as motivation.
“I always advise them to just do it and they will never regret it.”